That question is at the center of a New York Times story today that uses three deaths among laid-off workers in Lackawanna to examine research in recent years that indicates what may seem obvious — the stress of job insecurity and a layoff can harm your health.
The story reviews the heart attacks of three of the 260 workers at the ArcelorMittal steel plant, which ended production in 2009. The company had announced in 2008 that it intended to close the rolled steel finishing plant.
The victims of the heart attacks were George Kull Jr., 56, a millwright, who died after collapsing at home; Bob Smith, 42, a forklift operator, who was treated with stents to unclog his heart arteries; and Don Turner, 55, a crane operator, who also suffered a fatal attack at home.
The story suggests that the stress of losing their jobs may have played a role in their illnesses, citing a handful of studies in recent years.
A 2006 study by Yale University epidemiologists found that layoffs more than doubled the risk of heart attack and stroke among older workers. A 2009 paper by a University at Albany sociology professor found a pronounced increase in death during the period immediately following job loss and higher-than-average death rates continued in the following years.
The exact relationship between job loss and health is not known. There may be connections with cigarette-smoking and drinking alcohol. It also may be be that stress of any type influences well-being.